Tool tips – budget or quality? Sewing pins

Just how many different types of sewing pins are there, and how many of them do you really need?

Continuing today in our series about budget or quality sewing tools.  Can you have more fun, save time, or get better sewing results if you spend more money on your sewing tools or on all the extra gadgets and sewing gizmos.

In our previous articles:

Sewing pins

When I first started out, I bought this box of sewing pins at my local sewing store.  Pretty cheap, about $2 for the box, just your standard economy pins.  You can often find the same box in your sewing notions section at the supermarket – these are about as budget as they come!

sewing pins

They got me started, but I soon realised there is a LOT more to pins.  For a start, these are OK, but they are pretty small, hard to see or easy to miss and therefore sew over by mistake, hard to find it you drop them on the floor, and while they do the job on most projects, they aren’t good for thick layers because they are too short, and well, they just aren’t nice to look at.

However they are good if you do a lot of hand-sewing because the thread doesn’t so easily get caught around the small heads and shorter length.

There are actually a whole variety of types of pins that you can buy.  I only have a small selection, but you can buy specialty pins for different types of fabrics or for particular jobs.  Such as these for use with silk (very fine indeed) and these double ‘fork’ pins for use in quilting or when design matching has to be done carefully to keep fabrics from shifting as you sew, such as with plaids.

Pins 1

Did you know, for example, that you can even get glow in the dark pins!  Easy to find if you drop them, wait until night and go take a look around with the lights out.

Rather than reinvent the wheel and write a lot here about all the different types of sewing pins, here are some great resources where you can learn a lot more about all the sorts of sewing pins available:

  • Dritz – wow, these guys make a lot of pins!
  • Craftsy – the essential guide to sewing pins article
  • Threads Magazine – pin rust test, specialty pins, discussion on pin sizes and lots more
  • Sew 4 Home – good pin info here
  • JoAnn Fabrics – handy 3 page PDF you can save with pictures of all different types of pins and what they might be used for.

I quickly discovered that having better pins makes sewing easier.  I first bought these ball point pins for working with knit fabrics.  The ball point pins aren’t so sharp, have more of a rounded point for slipping between the fibers of knit fabrics rather than piercing them. They are also a bit longer than the budget pins, have a larger head and are easier to see.

ball point pins

Next in my discovery of the range of sewing pins, I found these flower head pins.  Much longer again, large colorful heads, easy to pick up, the longer length is great for thicker layers such as for bag making.

Watch out though.  Any pins with plastic heads can melt if you iron over them, and the plastic can stick to your iron in a nasty burny way.  (Not that I would ever do that of course  – wink).  Make sure to use glass head pins in any project where you might touch them with an iron.

flower head pins

When I’m not using my Wonder Clips, these flower head pins are usually my go-to solution.  But of course we need something to keep our pins in, keep them close to hand and stop them dropping on the floor.  Do you have a regular pin cushion?  I went for a magnetic one.

I love how easy it is to just throw the pin the in the general direction of the magnetic pin cushion when I’m sewing and then the magnets automatically lie out the pins nice and straight. Or if I am at the machine and pulling out pins as I sew into a little pile next to the machine, just sweep over with the pin cushion and the magnet picks them all up and straightens them.  No need to stick them into a pin cushion one at a time.  I love this thing!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course its often fun to sew your own pin cushion or sew and swap them with a friend.  Sounds like a great idea for a future round up article – great pin cushions to sew.

In the meantime here are a few to try.

Pin cushions

  1. Cathedral window
  2. Lady bug
  3. Folk art birds
  4. Paper pieced
  5. Fabric Flower
  6. Strawberry

And from this site, Scrappy Heart Pin Cushion

Heart pincushion. I like that its a larger size.
Follow Deby at So Sew Easy’s board Pretty Pincushions on Pinterest.

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14 Responses to Tool tips – budget or quality? Sewing pins

  1. Jennie says:

    In 44 years of sewing a few things have occurred to me. One of those things is that pins aren’t expensive if the don’t snag, are easily removed as you sew, and last more than a couple of projects. On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby I picked up a package of quilting pins in their Sewology brand. By the end of piecing the 20 blocks for a babies quilt, their lack of quality about drove me crazy. One block had to be remade because the snag created by a burr on the pin ruined the original. They slowed my sewing down because I had to be so careful pulling them out. They went directly into the trash. Lesson learned.

    • Yvonne says:

      There is a wonderful tool available in most sewing stores called a “pin wand” and other similar names. I had the horrible experience of my DH getting a hand needle stuck in his toe all the way to the bone. Minor surgery, but still really awful! I love the magnetic pin holders but this is another option. When I bought the wand the holders hadn’t come onto the markets.

  2. I also use a pill bottle to put defective or bent pins in a pill bottle. I have found that making a small hole in the upper portion of the bottle eliminates having to take off the lid each time I need to dispose of a pin. I used a drill, making the hole slightly larger than the head of the pin. If I have to dispose of any other sharp object, I remove the cap, dispose and replace the cap. I also “seal” the full bottle prior to trashing it.

  3. Anne H. Izard says:

    Good pins are worth every penny. They make your work easier and make it go faster. Best of all, they protect your expensive fabric. For years I made the mistake of throwing bent pins back on the magnetic pin cushion and even using them when their turn came up! No more, I put an empty pill bottle (like prescriptions come in) near my sewing machine/work area. Whenever I encounter a bent pin, off comes the cap and in goes the pin. Likewise, with broken sewing machine needles. They get placed in the bottle with the pins. Whenever the bottle gets fairly full, I plan to tape the cap on with packaging tape (my caps are not child proof because I can’t open them either!). Then the taped bottle can go into the trash without having to working about anyone grabbing the bag wrong when tossing it out and getting a nasty jab … important with the love of your life takes Xarelto!

  4. Patsy W. says:

    I bought some of the forked pins hoping to keep my quilt seams matched but I could not get the pins to stick through the fabric!! They were not cheap either! Will have to try them on some different fabric. However the fabric was not cheap either!!

  5. Cheryl Masters says:

    Thanks for the info. One of my problems is that when I drop pins, and go back to pick them up and once in awhile a couple of strays show up . Those I just get rid of since I can’t always figure out what they are.

    • Very true! Mine have different heads for different sorts, so maybe that would be something to look out for in future if buying a certain type of pin. Good advice.

    • Yvonne says:

      I purchased a magnet wand thing a few years ago, after my husband came through the room where I had just dropped a needle and he found it…with his toe! Actually went into the bone. Horrible day! So anyway, this magnet wand thing is brilliant. It’s quite strong and will pick up pins and needles from carpet very well. Maybe it is easier to type in a search: pin magnet sewing.

  6. louise belisle says:

    make your own magnetized pin cushion. Take a small plate (plastic) hot glue a couple of magnets on the bottom and voila, another magnetic pin cushion. I dropped 2 of the nice ones bought on my ceramic floors, so this worked out as a simple cheap solution as in Panama it is very difficult to find various sewing accessories other than purchasing on the web.

  7. Jill says:

    Well, who would’ve thought!! I’ve been thinking about my ancient pins lately and how I know they feel so wrong going into my fabric. I am now going to invest in some of these lovely items and take a big pile of pins down to the thrift store. I just bought a new machine and I need to be more kind to all this new fabric I’m trying. Thanks for the info Deby.

  8. Jennie says:

    I have an easy remedy for dropped pins and needles, or the horror of dumping all your pins or wonder clips on the floor by mistake. Harbor freight to the rescue with a Telescoping Magnetic Pickup Tool between $4.50 and $6.50. They’re perfect and no one in the family has had a pin encounter of the bad kind. Just wand over your area after each time you sew and might have dropped something.

  9. Wonderful information about pins! Thank you for sharing your post of information and the links for more information. Plus, the wonderful pincushion links. Have a wonderful creative day!

  10. elainejgates says:

    If you are like me you will soon have several pin cushions holding a variety of different pins and forget which are which. Until they won’t work for you and you go and buy yet one more new package, and begin again.

  11. modflowers says:

    As well as different types of pins it’s worth mentioning that not all pins of one type are of the same quality. Buy cheap pins and you may find that they are blunt, the heads come off or even that they rust and leave marks on your fabric! It’s always worth investing in quality pins and replacing them when they get blunt, just like you would with sewing machine needles.

What do you think?